Duke’s vaunted offense didn’t pile up 15 goals during Monday’s NCAA lacrosse title game like it normally does. It still had Jordan Wolf, and that was enough for the Blue Devils to claim their third national championship in five seasons.
Wolf had two goals and four assists in his final college game, including a score during the final minute to seal the game, as top-seeded Duke fended off sixth-seeded Notre Dame 11-9 in front of 25,587 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Deemer Class, Myles Jones and Kyle Keenan each scored twice for Duke (17-3), which built an 8-2 lead and then held on as the Fighting Irish (12-6) made things interesting during the final 20 minutes.
“Our offense didn’t have our best day today, but we kept working and trying to get our shots clicking,” Wolf said. “I just happened to be in some right spots and got some easy ones in transition.”
There were few easy ones for Duke, which was held to its lowest scoring output since March 15. But the payoff was the same as a year ago on Memorial Day, when the Blue Devils demolished Syracuse to secure a title.
That Blue Devils team took steep graduation hits in the midfield, but Class and Jones emerged as sophomore stars to help Duke win 13 of its final 14 games.
“Those guys last year, when they won their second, they told us that there was no better feeling in the world than to have two rings,” Jones said.
Wolf played a significant role in both championships, and his performance during the final 10 minutes Monday was indicative of what he has meant to the Blue Devils over the past four seasons. He scored on a re-dodge with 9 minutes, 56 seconds left to stem a four-goal Notre Dame run and make it 9-6, and he assisted Keenan with 2:39 to go to put Duke ahead 10-8.
The Irish’s Sergio Perkovic scored the last of his five goals with 49.6 seconds to go. Duke won the ensuing faceoff and called timeout. Off the restart, Wolf beat a double team and fired into an empty net with 23.6 seconds remaining to clinch the victory
“He has done so much for this team and this program for the past four years,” senior long pole Luke Duprey said. “It was the perfect fit and the perfect ending for him to have the ball and to take it and score that goal and give us that cushion at the end. He is, without a doubt, the best college lacrosse player in the country. It was just really fitting for him to end it that way for us.”
Wolf is one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The winner will be announced Thursday, and eight of the previous 13 honorees played for the national champion.
The senior attackman finished the season with 64 goals and 39 assists for a school-record 103 points, and his 304 career points rank second in ACC history.
“He’s the hardest-working kid in the weight room,” said coach John Danowski, who has taken Duke to the final four eight times in as many seasons. “He is pound for pound, in our pretests and post-tests, he is No. 1 on our team. He never missed a practice in four years. That’s what you get with these kids.”
Duke became the sixth ACC men’s program to claim consecutive NCAA championships, and the third in any sport at Duke (along with 1991-92 men’s basketball and 2005-07 women’s golf) to secure back-to-back national championships.
To pull it off, the Blue Devils did as they had all year, relying heavily on its senior star to thrive at the right time.
“I’m just so fortunate to be at a place like this,” Wolf said, adding that he hates the thought of leaving. “But it’s a good way to walk away.”